The British psychoanalyst John Bowlby maintains that separation from the parents during the sensitive "attachment" period from birth to three may scar a child's personality and predispose to emotional problems in later life. Some people have drawn the conclusion from Bowlby's work that children should not be subjected to day care before the age of three because of the parental separation it entails, and many people do believe this. But there are also arguments against such a strong conclusion.
Firstly, anthropologists point out that the insulated love affair between children and parents found in modern societies does not usually exist in traditional societies. For example, in some tribal societies, such as the Ngoni, the father and mother of a child did not rear their infant alone - far from it. Secondly, common sense tells us that day care would not be so widespread today if parents, care-takers found children had problems with it. Statistical studies of this kind have not yet been carried out, and they have uniformly reported that day care had a neutral or slightly positive effect on children's development. But tests that have had to be used to measure this development are not widely enough accepted to settle the issue.
But Bowlby's analysis raises the possibility that early day care has delayed effects. The possibility that such care might lead to, say, more mental illness or crime 15 or 20 years later can only be explored by the use of statistics. Whatever the long-term effects, parents sometimes find the immediate effects difficult to deal with. Children under three are likely to protest at leaving their parents and show unhappiness. At the age of three or three and a half almost all children find the transition to nursery easy, and this is undoubtedly why more and more parents make use of child care at this time. The matter, then, is far from clear-cut, though experience and available evidence indicate that early care is reasonable fo